Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Joe can cook! Episode 12: Hainan Chicken Rice (Take 2)



For the recipe, please refer to here. As a recap before we left Melbourne, the Wife's cousin treated us to a home cooked meal of chicken rice and that was the last i had a sniff of good chicken rice. Determined to replicate the dish, i mean i did feature it under "Joe can cook" even though i did nothing but eat large portions of it, i went off to buy a whole chicken and realised making chicken rice is not easy!


From stuffing spring onions and ginger into the chicken cavity, seasoning and poaching the chicken then taking it out, to cooking the rice with pandan leaves, ginger and garlic and finally the chilli, the whole process took a good 2 hours. 


At least it looks like it paid of though. 


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Somehow my chicken seem to be missing the yellow tinge, i think i might have over-cooked the chicken; blame the fact that i don't have a thermometer. Although always better to be safe than sorry with raw chicken. I was also too lazy to chop it up, instead we had a go with our hands.


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Together with oil rice, dark soya sauce and chilli sauce, i was in Heaven! (figuratively and literally if i had finished everything at one go).

For those who want to have a go making the chilli sauce, put into a food blender; 3 table spoons for blended chilli, (for those in Australia, Woolworths has a good blended chilli paste in their vegetable section), 1 lime, minced ginger and garlic and a bit of chicken stock (from the poaching liquid). Have a taste and season accordingly, some sugar will do if it is too spicy. 

With chicken rice, struck off the list, what is next? Bring it on!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Landmark @ Sunnybank Plaza, Brisbane

After not having dim sum for a while, it seemed like a telepathic move from my friend to suggest dim sum on our weekly breakfast session instead of poached eggs and lattes.


Who could say no especially when you have a craving?


The Dim Sum culture appears to be slightly different from Melbourne. Whilst you won't see many dim sum places in Melbourne CBD opening before 12pm, Landmark open its doors at 10am and with a queue before that.

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It would be quite hard to not find it in Sunnybank Plaza.
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Since we were here earlier, i found this VIP list rather amusing. Thankfully no Chinese had their pictures taken, if not i would have been ashamed. Have you ever left a restaurant without paying the bill?


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The Squid doesn't come with Salt and Pepper and instead comes in a more sinful manner; salted egg yolk. Nevertheless, if you can only order one fried item, it should be this.
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The system is a mix of self service and trolley pushing. The steamed dim sum is situated in a corner of the restaurant and you pile them on your tray DIY style while some of the other fried dishes and the miscellaneous like the cheong fun are carted around for you to look at and take. Apart from the usual fare of Har Gow and Siu Mai, you get beef tendons and tripes too, stuffed eggplant and other forms of dumplings with different fillings. Coming in a big group is probably the only way to try everything.

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The Polo Bun had the crunchy sweet top and a custard filling too. If only it can be a staple breakfast diet, life would be perfect, along with many other things of course.

If you were wondering, if that was it, the question is no but the camera was sitting snuggly in the bag as dumplings can only look so different. Overall an enjoyable meal of "yum cha" as we call it in Australia and the best part of eating with a huge group, the bill was AUD 16 per pax. With a basket ranging from AUD 3-6, it could easily be AUD 25 per pax if the Wife and I had gone.

Address and contact details:

Landmark on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. Although not the finest i have had, this still serves its purpose of satisfying a dim sum craving. I understand as far as Brisbane goes, this is one of the best around.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Au Cirque @ New Farm, Brisbane

One of the more famous breakfast and brunch places around New Farm is Au Cirque. The fact that it doesn't sit more than 30 at a go; creates a minimum waiting time of 15-20 minutes if you are lucky (they don't do bookings apparently). The only tip for you is to wake up a bit earlier and get there by 10am. Otherwise, wait till the breakfast crowd is gone and come around 2pm.
It is so famous i had different friends taking us here on back to back weeks, so it does say quite a bit.


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I like the big communal tables upstairs while the down stairs have small tables for 2 where you can basically have multiple conversations because of the close proximity.
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I guess sitting outside is not too bad but be prepared for the gloating eyes from the queue. The mango and passionfruit frappe is just the thing to keep you cool for the impending heatwave.


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Otherwise, the latte thankfully here is rather good. It is a pity that i can't find the same quality on Eagle Street.

Their weekend Breakfast menu is all day long and at 12pm, a selection of lunch dishes are also available although most are sandwiches and salads.


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The corncakes were fabulous and hit the spot for me. If you are a fan of corncakes, you got to order this. The addition of poached eggs and bacon completed the meal for me.

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On top of their menu, there have fortnightly specials and this was a smoked trout, spinach, poached egg and a polenta cake. I expected something more substantial but the Wife has a smaller stomach after all.

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Another dish that looked more like an entree than a satisfying breakfast was the mushrooms, spinach and feta. The optional chorizo was also rather puny for the AUD 3.
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Alternatively, the chow down is the way to go if you want something hearty. With sausages, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and a polenta or was corncake with the most heavenly onion jam, this is the perfect way to start the day.
If you are into sandwiches or bread for that matter, you can order what we ordered:


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The Reuben Sandwich is basically comes with Corned Beef (the recipe is here) with sauerkraut and melted cheese on top. My korean friend gobbled it all up in no time and seemed to love it by the speed of things.


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The Steak Sandwich came with a blue cheese spread and the same gorgeous onion jam. Now usually the Wife will oblige to share a bite or two or more if it is not good. With this sandwich though, i had to sneak a bite before she polished it all off by herself. I don't know about the steak but the blue cheese and the onion jam were perfect condiments.


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The chicken sandwich with bacon and avocado looked a bit more plain jane but nevertheless polished off as well by another friend.

While no doubt there were some breakfast items that shone out as satisfying and brilliant but some were quite dampening. Sandwiches and salads don't exactly fit the description of a weekend brunch so i will stick with the corn cakes or the chow down if i go back again, although having gone twice, back to back weekends, i might take a break.

Breakfast items are from AUD 12.50 - AUD 18 while the lunch are generally AUD 12.50.

Address and contact details:
Cirque on Urbanspoon

Verdict: Worthy of 4 stars out of 5 stars. Well made breakfast, a pity that they can only serve so little people at a time but i guess thats the charm about it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Joe can cook! Episode 16: Chinese Steam Fish

Theres one thing that i haven't experimented in the kitchen despite months of freedom to play around is the steaming method. Despite my love for steam fish and the lack of it in Australia because it either comes in fillet or with an exorbitant price tag, i just haven't gotten around to buying a whole fish and steaming it.

It doesn't help that there is no proper market per se where everyone gets their groceries except for the supermarkets. Another thing about the supermarkets is that they emphasise accordingly to the suburb it is located in i.e. where we stay, we get only a few fish in fillet form (presumably not many people around the area eats fish) but a supermarket in Sunnybank where the asian population is, has a larger variety of asian vegetables, whole fishes and a larger aisle for asian sauces and condiments.

So one lucky weekend when our friend fetched us out to Sunnybank; i was at the display of fishes and i looked at the rainbow trout then looked at the Wife and asked "you want steam fish?", half expecting an answer like "so troublesome, don't want..", she replied "sounds like a pretty good idea, long time no steam fish".
So steam fish it was.

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Clean the fish, cut some spring onions and ginger to stuff into the cavity of the fish and some salt, put it into a steamer for 12-15 minutes (for a 500-600 gram) fish.
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Heat the soya sauce with some sugar and some sesame oil and drizzle over the steam fish when it comes out of the steamer. Garnish with more spring onions and ginger.

A simple steam fish to be served with white rice. Can't imagine what took me that long to try steaming fish.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chouquette @ New Farm



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How would one define the word "Chouquette"? a) A bakery that serves some gorgeous french pastry and desserts in New Farm or b) A gorgeous hollow cream puff topped with pearl sugar that teases your palate and calls out for some cream or custard.

I have slowly realised my increase in sugar intake, blaming the desserts that i so crave ever so often and it doesn't help that my dear friend W, (who i have known since Primary 2 is also in Brisbane) has a sweeter tooth. After our ritual Saturday breakfast session where we catch up on things, to chit chat and have a good laugh over a meal, his second nature is to go to a good dessert place. 

One of the places he has taken us to and we have fallen in love almost immediately is Chouquette. A small bakery run by French, note the "bonjour" greeting and the lovely French servers who speak English with a very french accent. 

The almost intoxicating smell of pastry, pies and desserts all on display can make any knee weak in no time. Apart from the choquettes that were sold at AUD 2.50 for 10, we took away an almond croissant and an Éclair and we were blown away, figuratively.


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The chocolate coated Éclair was stuffed to the brim with thick chocolate cream and when the Wife does not share and am unwilling to share, you know its top notch. 


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The to die for almost croissant. Unlike how normal croissants should be, this was dense and just so satisfying although it would be quite a challenge to eat it all by yourself. Share with someone else and this is plain awesome. 

The pastries are around AUD 4-6 and this was a gem. However, that being said, i am quite concerned about hygiene as some pastries are displayed on top of the counter with no cover and lid and needless to say the flies had a field day. Luckily all that we bought were covered up. 

Address and contact details:


Chouquette on Urbanspoon

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars. I understand for those who stay around the area can't live on the fact that they open from Wednesday to Sunday, it is really only Saturday that we would come and that still, with a sugar allowance. Can't wait to come again and try some of their bread!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Fail Moment! Choux Pastry gone flat

For the last 3 Sundays, the Wife and I have been finding ways to past time other than going out to spend money (something that we are extremely lacking of). So instead of going out for a good lunch, we spend a small portion of that on flour, castor sugar, baking paper, eggs and search for simple recipes.


So the first week, we baked a banana cake, with the top, on the brink of being burnt (note: to switch on the lights when you look at the cake), the week after we made a muffin where we stuffed some leftover chocolate and Tim Tams which didn't raise like we wanted to.


With no success at our belt, it didn't help we have been religiously watching Junior Masterchef and having seen a 12 year old make choux pastry as part of replicating Adriano Zumbo's dessert, we took it one step at a time and decided to make the choux pastry first.


Problem no 1: Don't attempt recipe that involves measurement beyond 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup or 1/4 cup without a measuring scale. The recipe asked for a 105ml of water, 135 ml of milk, 5grams of salt and castor sugar, 100gms of butter, 3 eggs and an egg yolk. What happens? I put in way too salt and it tasted like a savoury shell.


Problem no 2: Don't bother if you don't have a proper mixer. Trying to whisk the mixture with a portable whisk and a bowl was tough, with everything flying out.


Problem no 3: Follow the instructions, the recipe called for either a diameter of 3cm and 6cm. We happily piped out different sizes after we thought the big ones wouldn't raise.


That being said, it did go into the oven at 185 c.


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 It did look like it was raising but the itchy hands of mine decided to see clearly and opened the oven.

Apparently in the show, the chef said that is a big no no, i meant NO NO.

So look what happened.

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Most of them fell flat in no time while there were like 3 that looked vaguely like a profiterole. With no accuracy what so ever in making this, i must admit, with a bit of whipped cream and jam, this tasted still awesome, i mean how wrong can eggs, butter and flour be?

Quite wrong apparently.

Let me go get a weighing scale, i vow to sort out this choux pastry.

Lets see how i try to re-create this next week.

For those that want to see the full recipe and attempt at the complete dessert, go to the Masterchef website.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Joe can cook! Episode 15: The Wonders of Puff Pastry and Bottled Sauce


I discovered the wonders of puff pastry during one of those relaxation grocery trip as you push that trolley to every single space of the supermarket, wondering what else can't you buy. In the last aisle of the supermarket, amongst the ice-cream, the frozen food and vegetables, the puff pastry called out for me, why i had no idea but i promptly took a pack even though the Wife asked what for?

How would i know? The Puff asked me to take him home.

So one weekend when we wondered how we would ever finish up all the meatballs we made from a kilo of beef and pork that we cooked in a bottled black bean sauce with peppers and onions earlier, the Puff called out to me and say "hey, use me"

Defrost a piece of puff pastry, brush it with egg and poke it around with a fork unless you want it to puff beyond recognition. Put whatever filling you like and put it in the oven for 20 minutes or at the instructions given on the pack and voila, a nice simple lunch!

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Despite it being frozen and being a supermarket brand, the flaky pastry was good enough for most occasions. If i am not mistaken, i remember watching celebrity chefs on TV advocating the use of frozen puff pastry, so if it's good enough for them, its good enough for me. Saves time and effort.

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Cut a nice portion and chill out for a lazy weekend brunch. How nice is that? Substitute the meatballs with anything you fancy, i have seen recipes that use vegetables, chicken, beef, seafood or whatever you fancy!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welsh Lady @ Rosalie, Brisbane

I am going through my pictures and at the same time rewinding my eating activities over the last few weeks, a pattern is arising; home cooked food on most weekdays with the occassional new recipe, followed by a weekly ritual of going out for a Saturday breakfast and dessert and back to eating at home.


So after a Saturday breakfast at Rosalie (that review to come soon), my friend drove us to the Welsh Lady. No, not to see a lady from Wales but an inconspicuous looking bakery that had a huge array of desserts on display. When i asked what was good, the reply was "everything!", which came make it rather hard not to take away the whole lot. 


The temptation is not uncalled for as i found out the Welsh Lady has been specialising in Wedding Cakes for 30 years running, so when it comes to making cakes taste and look good, they are the ones to go to.


One of their signature cakes is their Death by Chocolate. If you are into condensed flourless chocolate cakes, this is the one. Topped with a a mild rum ball, this was so satisfying.


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The reason why you can't really see the cake is not because of the lighting but because it is that condense that it is essentially a whole block of chocolate that you are putting into your mouth (with all the good things like eggs, sugar and what not).

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The lemon curd tart does a good job in balancing the chocolate fix earlier with its tangy filling. The curd is also sold separately in a jar.

Prices are around 6-8 AUD for a slice and the tarts should be around AUD 3-4.

Address and contact details:

92 Fernberg Rd, ROSALIE 4064
Ph: (07) 3368 3485
Open Tues-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Closed Sunday-Monday

Verdict: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. If you had a meagre allowance for sugar, this is it. Can't wait to return for more goodies.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Campos Coffee @ Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

I have a friend, S who i worked briefly with in Malaysia who was under a secondment from Brisbane. Having been in Brisbane for a couple of years, it was a no brainer to go to him asking for recommendations.

So one day i asked:

"Hey, where can i get good coffee with Melbourne as the benchmark?"

(Now S being a Sydney-sider who in general deems everything that comes out from Sydney to be the best and anywhere else particularly Melbourne as inferior ..)

"Mate, let me say Melbourne is a sh*thole and do not ask me to make comparisons with Melb to anything. Everything and anything is in Sydney. Full Stop!! :-P"

"Ouch.."

With that in mind that Sydney is the best, my friend suggested one weekend we go to Campos, an award winning coffee specialist from where else but Sydney!

Determined to keep an open mind, i was slightly disappointed to see that the baristas did look a bit on the young side and looked like they were rushing out their coffees; not a good sign to a good coffee. However, they do serve double ristretto latte and they do a cold drip too, signs that they take their coffee seriously. 
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The cold drip coffee was served in a wine glass, apparently to give you a better whiff of it when you smell it. Smooth on the palate without being too bitter, this was a good choice for the rather sunny morning.


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The moment of truth; was the coffee miles better than a Melbournian coffee? Certainly comparable and i think just about on par with the coffee in Melbourne but definitely not miles ahead. Unfortunately when i read of reviews of the Campos in Sydney, everyone raves about it though. Despite the fact that this might not be the real deal from Sydney, it is still definitely a cup of decent brew and i am comforted by the fact that i can get hold of a good cup somewhere in Brisbane instead of the horrid stuff i get at my office lobby.

How about the breakfast items?
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The Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon. The only qualm is the heat from the egg and tossed spinach had totally cooked off the salmon which i didn't like. Otherwise, they did a beautiful job with the poached eggs which came with runny yolks. 
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Forgive my poor memory but this was the dish that had chorizos and potatoes topped with the sunny side egg. A rather unorthodox breakfast item, it seemed rather odd to eating pieces of roast potatoes for breakfast and could have done better, if it came with a slice of toast.
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Another variation of smoked salmon on toast came with a rocket salad on top. Being a rather cold dish, the smoked salmon remained its original texture.

Breakfast with coffee comes up to about AUD 20 per pax. Not as cheap as eating breakfast at home but dollar for dollar, i would be struggling to get anything of this quality back in Malaysia. A place that i can console myself with Sydney coffee since Melbourne coffee is almost impossible to get around in this part of town.

Address and contact details:

11 Wandoo St (just behind James Street Market),
Fortitude Valley, QLD, 4006

Tel: (07) 3252 3612

Open Daily 9am-5:30pm

Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars. The breakfast items could have been better and it was quite hot to sit al-fresco (as it is quite a small place) but the coffee is definitely one of the better ones i had in Brisbane.


Campos on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 15, 2010

Koko Black @ Lygon Street, Melbourne

Spring in Brisbane has been very kind; as if "it" had heard my dislike for hot weather. With a mix of gloom and sunshine and seldomly exceeding 30 degrees, walking outside can get sticky but not too uncomfortable with the breeze. However staying indoors is another issue. While it was always so cold in Melbourne that the placefelt like it was air-conditioned, it is uncomfortable in Brisbane. Stuck with either a hefty electricity bill if i switch on the air-con, the cheap tower fan i got from Big W doesnt seem to be working too well. Looks like its time to invest in a better fan and am really digging this bladeless multiplier fan but it will set me back AUD 350.


While i could always drench myself with cold water or sleep in a bath tub full of ice, the hot weather makes me wish that Koko Black will open in Brisbane soon. 


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This ice chocolate is figuratively to die for. The perfect antidote for hot weather, the use of premium vanilla ice-cream brings this drink to perfection. Strongly recommended if you are a chocolate person.

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If you are into desserts, you are in safe hands. With a dessert chef in the premises, he can whip you any of the mouth watering items on the menu. The platter that we ordered had a bite of everything from gourmet chocolates, cookie, cake, mousse and ice cream. Not cheap but quality. 

Address and contact details:
Koko Black on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Converted into a chocolate lover but those who are not into sweets, be prepared, it can get quite sweet in here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Little Taipei Food Court @ Sunnybank, Brisbane

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If i asked you to guess where this food court could be located at, i doubt many would answer somewhere in the middle of Australia (with the only big clue that i am blogging from Australia). Walking inside to the Little Taipei Food Court crowded with Asians reminds me of the dinner i had in Tung Po Kitchen at a Hong Kong market or the breakfast in Taipei, but it definitely did not remind me of my eating out experiences in Australia so far. Specialising in Taiwanese food, if the food is good, who cares?
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The food looked tempting after eating nights of simple dishes of meat and vegetables. To see pork leg and minced meat with rice was like a dream come true. However, the experience was somehow like being in a mirage, everything was served luke warm and there weren't much flavour and whats hash browns doing in a taiwanese bento?

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This definitely did not look like a Three Cup Chicken, a taiwanese dish that comes with a nice sticky sauce littered with basil leaves. Instead we got a bland braised chicken which even i would sulk if given the dish.

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My friend who bought us here had his regular order that came in a sizzling plate. Named a "Kid's meal", no wonder the Australians are only growing bigger, how can a kid stomach a 110gm steak, a mountain of pasta and an egg too? 
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The traditional taiwanese fried chicken pieces was more like battered frozen chicken. Sounds disgusting but actually quite enjoyable to eat.

If you were to ask me, i don't think this is the place to eat, even if there was a perpetual crowd flowing in. Meals that start from AUD 8-9, it is cheap but not dirt cheap or maybe we were just unlucky and ordered all the wrong items.

Address:

Just opposite Maru (the address is 9 Lewina St, Sunnybank QLD 4109)

Its a rather dingy entrance and you have to walk up a flight or two of stairs.

Verdict: A poor 2 stars out of 5 stars. Seriously don't bother unless stepping into a food court that reminds you of a Hong Kong market or an old shopping centre food court in Malaysia appeals to you. 

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By the way, what do you think of the pictures? Its taken with the new iPhone 4! Not as enticing as the DSLR, which i have left at home for my home cooked food but still pretty decent right?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Seven Seeds @ Carlton, Melbourne

One of the most talked about places to grab a coffee, without a doubt belongs to Seven Seeds. When someone flies in from Tasmania on an early Saturday morning and suggests that the first place he wants to have a breakfast and a coffee is Seven Seeds, it is definitely not child's play.


Having visited place three or four times already in a short span of time, this place comes heavily recommended.


No doubt if you want a coffee here, order a double ristretto latte or if you want a weaker one, order a ristretto latte. Their chai latte is equally as good but you ultimately should try their coffee.


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The place is decently huge but be prepared to share a table and wait a while as well.


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I understand the menu does rotate but if you are there, you have got to order their french toast (especially if you have a sweet tooth). The generous amount of mascarpone cheese ontop of the eggy toast sends you to heaven, literally or as my brother say figuratively since i technically didn't fly to heaven and stay there. Looking at it, i am drooling for a piece eventhough it is closer to dinner time as i write this.

Tourist looking for a coffee? Or happen to be around the area looking for a coffee? Looking for a french toast? I recommend Seven Seeds.
Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon


Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. Brilliant coffee and orgasmic french toast (the picture doesn't do it justice of course).